The Purpose of Pain
The experience of pain is different in all of us, beginning with our perception of it to the definition that we give to it. We all face the certainty of pain, but will experience it in differing forms. Since it’s one of those absolutes that we can’t run away from, why not take the time to research and study it? With a humble heart, take some time to meditate on it.
As humans we explore and research a lot about the pleasures we experience in life, but the research for pain happens only when we feel it. The interesting thing is that pain is our ticket to growth. Pain forces us to change, to do something different. Pain is an excellent teacher. In our eternal search for pleasure, pain becomes our ally. Without it we wouldn’t know the ecstasies of pleasure. Sometimes (in my opinion) even too much pleasure can become painful.
Pain might manifest in the inflammation of some tissue or as an infection. It can be mechanical, like a restriction in a joint or a structural limitation. Pain shows up in our psyche, manifesting in several forms all day long... sometimes as humans we do this to ourselves.
Pain is here to teach us something. Something that we are missing, something that is going to be missed, something that is inside of us .. something that we don’t want to/or haven’t yet taken the time to look at. Pain is a response, like Master Gray Cook says “Don’t kill the messenger-at least not until you get the message. The message is that pain is a signal to a problem. It’s not the underlying problem.” Pain comes in so many flavors, a flavor for each of us, with a purpose, inflicted or otherwise. Pain tests our limits, and it has pushed my client Liz to the edge. Not a joke my friends.
Liz suffered from a head on collision with a semi when she was 21, resulting in several fractured vertebrae in the cervical and lumbar spine along with a broken ankle. She spent over 2 months in a drug induced coma - following 10 months of PT (which 27 years ago was quite limited as she describes.) The impact with the trailer was so hard that it took a few hours for the emergency team to dig her out of the car.
Years later another accident - this one involving her heart. She finds love, but he finds a reason to hurt. Abusive and oppressive, he leaves her with 2 children.
The third blow - this time attacking her soul. Life gives her a second opportunity to love and be loved. She finds a military officer of the United States who takes her and the kids under his wing. After 6 years together, his service is required in Iraq. He swears to defend and protect his flag… which he does. Iraq sends him back home in a coffin. The flag that he gave his life to, closes it's eyes to his sacrifice and those left behind.
After all of this Liz is left in Survival Mode. Pain has become her reality, it has become a part of her DNA.
Survival mode = what happens to your body when pain takes over. Survival mode means doing whatever it takes to stop pain, or the idea of it. Hearts close, emotions get turned off, and our brain dictates the way. Pain becomes the enemy that exists not only in our bodies but also in our minds.
Working with Liz has taught me a lot about pain, and a lot about her condition..
As with many other terms used to describe spinal problems, spondylosis is more of a descriptive term than it is a clinical diagnosis. Literally it can be translated to mean that one has both pain and spine degeneration, regardless of what is causing the pain or where the degeneration is occurring.
This type of condition usually happens at the lumbar spine. Have you hear of L4-L5, S1? If not don’t worry, it means the lower back, and this one is a very messy one. It pops, it cracks and yes it moves... unstable but it moves.
As trainers we always want to progress our students and clients, but with Liz I've had learn innumerable ways to modify movement. It’s hard to predetermine movement because usually it’s the pain that determines the approach we take.
The following is an example of the process we take in working with this condition.
Pain can be overwhelming, making us feel as though our heads are being held under the water - suffocating us. It should also serve as a reminder of our existence on this planet. We are not immune to it, nor should we be. Should we not be able to tolerate pain as we tolerate pleasure? It’s part of our human experience. Pain is there to teach us something, to be a part of us. Not to determine who we are, but to keep us humble and empathetic to the suffering of others.
Without pain we would never know how well and good feels.
Elizabeth Perri - client
Since my car accident over 20 years ago I have suffered from recurring migraine headaches lasting 5-7 days and occurring every 3-4 weeks. I had limited mobility throughout my body, constant pain in my lumbar area and shooting pain and numbness in both of my legs. The severity of pain had increased gradually over the years and had become so “normal” to my daily existence that I wasn’t aware of not only how bad it had become, but how not normal that level of pain should be. Exercise only aggravated and intensified the pain.
I was referred to Camilo nearly 2 years ago by a friend in the fitness industry. She had seen my limited movement and level of pain and suggested that he may be able to help me. In the past two years training with Camilo, he has not only strengthened my body, he has also taught me how to move, sit, stand, and live more effectively. The modifications that he offers in strength training have dramatically decreased pain incurred during exercise. The modifications he has taught me in movement during daily life activities have reduced the pain levels and nearly eliminated the migraine headaches. I have suffered only 2 migraines in the last 12 months, and the duration of each was less than 2 days. In short, he has worked miracles and given me quality of life that I thought I had lost forever.
Camilo works tirelessly to study new methods of training, new activities, and new exercises. I have never done the same workout twice in two years. Most importantly, aside from the incredible work Camilo accomplishes through training, he is also extremely fun to work with. Laughter is frequent in every session, which has worked to heal not only my body, but my soul as well. He is truly gifted.